Christie's to sell Quinlan paintings now held by Nama

Thu, Aug 18, 2011, 01:00

FINE ART auctioneers here have failed to secure a contract to sell paintings seized for the State by the National Asset Management Agency. The contract has been awarded instead to the international auction house, Christie’s.

Nama said it would make an announcement soon and Christie’s declined to comment. The Irish Times has learned, however, that Christie’s has been chosen to sell 14 paintings formerly owned by developer Derek Quinlan.

The paintings by Irish, British and American artists will be auctioned in London and New York later this year and the proceeds used to pay down some of Mr Quinlan’s debts, which have been taken over by Nama.

Sources in the Dublin art trade expressed “disappointment and anger” at the decision to appoint an overseas auctioneer. “At least the paintings by Irish artists should have been sold in Ireland,” they said.

The decision means that Irish residents who wish to buy one of the paintings will have to bid in London or New York and incur foreign exchange and shipping costs. The list of paintings includes works by leading Irish artists Paul Henry, Jack B Yeats and Roderic O’Conor, and by other artists including Alex Katz and Andy Warhol.

The 14 paintings have been independently valued by Nama for about €1.7 million. Individual valuations show most have dropped sharply in value – in some cases by 60 per cent – since they were bought. For example, Mr Quinlan paid £540,000 (€615,000) to a dealer in New Bond Street, London, for an abstract painting by William Scott in 2007. It has now been valued at just €200,000.

Sales records show that Mr Quinlan – a former tax inspector with the Revenue – spent millions of euro acquiring works of art at auction and from art dealers in Ireland and London over the past 15 years. His eclectic taste ranged from traditional west of Ireland images to a “pop-art” painting of a US dollar sign by Warhol.

Although Christie’s no longer holds auctions in Ireland, the company has long been involved in the Irish art world. It conducted many sales of the contents of the Anglo-Irish “big” houses in the 20th century. Christie’s has 53 offices in 32 countries, including Ireland.

Separately, two other paintings from Mr Quinlan’s collection have already been acquired by the National Gallery of Ireland.

One, by Sir John Lavery, was given to the gallery as a gift to the nation from Nama and the second, a Jack B Yeats, was bought from Nama by the gallery.